By Sarah Brown, CNN
(CNN) - Every August, devotees from the Light of the World Church, or La Luz Del Mundo, based in Guadalajara in central Mexico gather for a “holy supper,” or “santa convocation.”
The event is a remarkably colorful occasion for the church, which says it follows the beliefs of the “primitive” or early Christian traditions.
Crowds of worshipers who had traveled to the country from as far afield as Israel spill out into the city’s streets, holding parades and festivities that go on for days. FULL POST
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
(CNN) – Behind her were ruins, a tangled mess where structures once stood. Cradled in her arms, the mother’s 19-month-old son played with a snatched microphone, unfazed by the chaos swirling around him. And in front of Rebecca Vitsmun stood CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who – after asking her about the decision that saved her and her son's lives – had one more question:
“I guess you got to thank the Lord, right?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she mumbled, smiling and looking down.
“Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?” he continued.
“I, I, I,” the 30-year-old stay-at-home mom stammered before adding, “I’m actually an atheist.” FULL POST
By Daphne Sashin, CNN
Deborah Mitchell remembers the time, when her boys were younger, and another mom asked her about her religious beliefs.
Mitchell was raised Catholic but moved away from religion in her early 20s. She told the other mother that she didn’t go to church and didn’t even really believe in God.
Then, she says, the recruiting started.
“She used to call my house and tell me she was praying for me. She’d leave me messages and leave cards in my mailbox with scripture,” Mitchell says. “I do realize that she meant well, but at the same time, I know my views were seen as wrong. I needed to be ‘saved.’”
Mitchell, a mother of two teenagers in Texas who feels “immersed in Christianity,” started a blog about raising her children without religion because she felt frustrated and marginalized. She didn’t want to feel so alone, she says.
This week, she gained a whole new audience and the reassurance that she's not alone. Her essay on CNN iReport, “Why I Raise My Children Without God,” drew 650,000 page views, the second highest for an iReport, and the most comments of any submission on the citizen journalism platform.
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, begins on November 13 and is celebrated for several days afterward by millions of Hindus across the world as one of the most important events on their spiritual calendar.
The word Diwali itself means 'festival of lamps', because houses and public spaces are decorated with scores of small oil lamps in honor of the goddess Lakshmi, to whom Hindus pray to for success and wealth. Throughout the festival, families purchase new clothes and buy sweets and snacks for themselves, relatives and friends.
To commemorate Diwali, we want to see your best images of the most beautiful festival lights. Send them to CNN iReport.
By Jareen Imam, CNN
(CNN) – After Sunday’s Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, Sikhs across America started sharing their stories. Stories of shedding their turbans and cutting their hair to avoid ridicule. Stories of facing discrimination for the way they looked. Stories of being labeled Muslims or terrorists.
Those stories were among the iReports submitted by Sikhs in the last week.
Harpreet Kaur says her life changed drastically after the 9/11 attacks. Some classmates shunned her and she was taunted as a "rag head" and "bomber."
About 3 million Muslims from more than 100 countries will pack the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, next month for Hajj, the biggest pilgrimage on the planet.
What's it all about? We turned to Brown University Muslim chaplain and CNN iReporter Robert David Coolidge and Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, for a primer:
1. Why do Hajj?
According to Islam, every Muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage at least once if they are healthy and can afford to. Some people spend their whole lives saving for the trip, while others return many times for spiritual enlightenment and forgiveness, says Coolidge, who will make his second pilgrimage this year with his wife.
“There’s the belief that one’s prayers in the mosque in Mecca are multiplied many, many times,” Coolidge said.
Only Muslims are allowed in Mecca, and the Saudi government sets quotas for each country to control the crowds. Because Coolidge’s name isn’t "recognizably Muslim,” he had to get written proof of his faith from a local imam.
iReporter candy91 was on her way to church on Easter Sunday, and when she saw the high flood waters at Mount Calvary Powerhouse Church in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, she almost turned around and went home. A church van was shuttling people through the water and she helped transport a few people in her car as well. She had no idea that one of the young men in her car was planning to be baptized that day. Marcus Pegues was baptized in the flood waters. "He got baptized in the water that God provided for us. … We trudged on and had our Easter service. We didn’t let the water stop us," she said.
See her full iReport submission
iReporter MjCantilero shot video of an annual pilgrimage of Catholics walking miles to Antipolo City, Philippines, last night. 'Thousands of devotees thread the hills of this city as a sacrifice for the Holy Week. Some walk from nearby cities and provinces, and there are barely vehicles passing the highway leading to the city. It's an amazing view. They stay overnight and sleep on the pavements or outside the church doors with only newspapers,' she said.
By Emanuella Grinberg and Nicole Saidi, CNN
An atheist billboard on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel that declared Christmas a "myth" has been replaced by a pro-Christian billboard.
The old billboard, put up in late November by the American Atheists organization, said "You know it's a myth. This season, celebrate reason."
The sign stirred controversy among Christian organizations, prompting the Catholic League to erect its own pro-Christmas billboard on the New York side of the tunnel that read, "You Know It's Real: This Season Celebrate Jesus."
The new sign, which was posted by the Manhattan-based Times Square Church, reads "God is," and includes a word cloud of religious themes.
In Black in America’s third year, CNN will focus on the church. Spiritual and gospel music has always been at the heart of the black church. To honor this rich tradition, CNN is inviting choirs around the world of all denominations to sing as one.
How to participate:
Gather your choir and sing a very special hymn, “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” by Andrae Crouch - commonly referred to as “The Blood.” Then upload your video below. CNN will blend all the videos together to create a unique global version.
Go to the iReport choir project assignment
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.